With their latest album, I Don’t Think it Is, released last month and the announcement of their spring tour with MewithoutYou, Teen Suicide and Museum Mouth, life for the pop-punk group, Say Anything, has been anything but dull.
Despite the busyness and preparations, we had the privilege of speaking with lead singer Max Bemis about all things music, family and tour related, while also dabbling in everything from the singer’s origins with music, comic books and the meaning behind the latest album cover.
Jordan: What have you been doing today? What’s Say Anything been up to?
Max: Today, I have family in town. But, we’re getting things ready for our upcoming tour in the spring. So, you know, early preparations for that.
J: What are you anticipating with your upcoming tour and the release of your latest album? What can fans expect?
M: I feel like we’ve been in our groove for a while. This album thankfully had a really great reception from the fans and from people in the media so far. I don’t expect too much or too little. I think that it’s already kind of a cool job, so as long as we’re going out and playing shows and people are coming to see us, and enjoying and relating to what we do, that’s all I really expect.
J: What is the prominent theme for your latest album [I Don’t Think It Is]? I’ve been listening to it lately, and I really dig it by the way.
M: Oh, thank you!
J: Basically, what was the inspiration behind it?
M: It was a sense of abandonment, really, because I think that a lot of our other records have been very premeditated—not to impugn them in any way—but I wanted to make a record that was very off the cuff; to try a bunch of things that I would only try in the moment without thinking too much ahead. In also working with Darren King as basically a fellow band member versus working as a producer who is basically there to bring my ideas to fruition, this was having someone bring their own set of ideas. Because we work really well together, it was a very forward and comfortable process. It was really cool for me because I’ve never had that really, except for maybe when I did the Two Tongue’s record with Chris. So yeah, everything was a very unique experience for me.
J: Is there a song that either is your favorite or illustrates this [theme] the most?
Max: My favorite song on the record is called “So Numb” and it’s because it’s so to the point and short and simple, that I almost considered not making it a Say Anything song. But then I realized that that was an inhibition that I wanted to kind of shed. And now we have this song that I’m going to really enjoy playing live and I think it works really well as a Say Anything song and had I sort of censored myself from putting it on the record, I think I would have regretted it later.
J: I also wanted to ask you about the album art.
J: Was there meaning behind it, or is it more like, “You know, we need an album cover, so we’re just going to take a picture of this.”
M: There is a meaning behind it. A lot of the songs on the album refer to my best friend, Josh, who I grew up with and went to summer camp with, and that’s who’s on the cover. And when the record comes out people will see that he’s pretty much all the art in the inside as well. He basically is a representation of kind people my age, myself and my fans because I’ve seen him go through a lot of stuff that he’s had to persevere through. A lot of the message of this record is “keep your head up” and to have a sort of self worth despite how fucking terrible things are sometimes, so that’s why I kind of made Josh the mascot.
J: Where did you start with music? To get on a personal level.
M: I started doing music in early grade school taking piano lessons, singing and stuff and teaching myself the piano eventually. And then sometime around middle school I learned guitar and then formed a band around age 14, 15? And then things got kind of crazy. We got involved with the music industry way too early for a band because we grew up in L.A. and it’s so easy to get noticed there. So we didn’t have a normal formed experience as a band. We didn’t get to go on tour until I was like 19 or 20 and then after that I feel like we started to get integrated into the community that I really valued. It was a tricky thing for me having this kind of experience that I’ve been longing for, but that didn’t happen until like five years into Say Anything’s existence.
J: Just out of curiosity, what was your first band called? Do you remember?
M: It was Say Anything. It’s always been Say Anything.
J: Really? That’s actually really unique, I feel like most bands evolved over time.
M: Yeah, we never let it go.
J: Also, has your sound evolved over time? I know the name has stayed constant but has the sound changed?
M: It’s definitely changed on everything we’ve ever done. For sure.
J: In what way?
M: It’s a changing taste. The experience of being in a band changes what you want to create to some degree. It starts with kids in a garage making music and then they get stimulated to try something different for various positive or negative reasons. When you’re on tour playing in front of people or getting opinions from the media, you know, it tends to have an effect, whether a positive or negative effect.
J: Where has been your favorite place to tour so far?
M: I always like coming to New York. I would say L.A. but that’s just kind of like being at home. I was born in New York and I lived there for a long time and I have a lot of family there and a lot of friends, so it’s kind of like a home away from home. I miss New York a lot because I live in Texas. And the shows there are usually the best shows.
J: What are you anticipating about your tour particularly in D.C.? Have you been to the 9:30 Club before, or would this be the first time?
M: Oh, hell, we’ve played there a bunch of times. And I’m excited. It’s a great club and it’s a great size for us. It’s kind of like the best sized place that we like playing in. I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad show there.
J: What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t making music?
M: Well, I also write comics, so I would probably be focusing more on writing fiction and comics, movies, stuff like that.
J: What kind of comics do you like to write?
M: I like to write all kinds. There’s the superhero stuff, and then there’s kind of the edgier stuff, and I’ve been doing both. It’s really gratifying.
J: What would you hope to achieve through your music? What is your main goal?
M: I guess to touch upon some kind of truth that resonates with people of—not necessarily a similar mindset—but people with the same values. That maybe it could reach through to people who I feel like need to be reminded of those values, you know. It could either be people who feel the same way I do or people where it speaks to them and actually changes the way they think about something. That’s what good music does for me.
Say Anything will be at Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club May 17. Ticket information found here.
Featured Photo Credit: Featured photo courtesy of Neil Visel.
Jordan Stovka is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.